The Hash House Harrier (H3) movement of non-competitive running/drinking clubs originated in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
A small band of British army officers and colonials used to meet on a social basis every Monday evening in the Selangor Club – known as the ‘hash house’ because of its cheap and uncomplicated food and drink. For want of something physical to do before their eating and drinking sessions, they began to organise ‘hare and hound’ runs based on the paper chase runs of English public schools. The ‘hare’ would lay a trail in paper for the rest of the pack to follow, and attempt to catch the hare before he made it back to the starting point. The runners became known as the ‘hash house harriers’. The Second World War put an end to ‘hashing’, but after the war the idea gradually caught on, with people drawn to the non-competitive and social ethos of the hash. A second group was founded in Singapore in 1962 and then the movement spread throughout Europe, Australasia and America. Current estimates are that around 2000 hash groups (sometimes called ‘kennels’) are spread throughout all 7 continents, with most major cities boasting at least one hash group. There are many thousands of members and some clubs meet once per week, while others restrict their activities to certain times of the year.
The basic idea behind a hash run is that the trail should enable the whole pack to begin and end at approximately the same time, irrespective of their running ability. This is accomplished by the hare ensuring that the trail includes false trails, short cuts, dead ends and splits, such that the ‘better’ runners will run further than the slower members of the pack. Some trails even include a shorter route for walkers.
A key feature is ‘the circle’ the ceremonial end to a run where the hare is ‘thanked’ for his/her efforts, generally by downing a drink to the accompaniment of some raucous songs. Other members of the pack can also be celebrated in the same manner – the social element of an event is as important, if not more so, than any athleticism involved.
Alcohol is often an integral part of a Hash, though the balance between running and drinking differs between kennels, with some groups placing more focus on socialising and others on running. Hash events are open to the public and require no reservation or membership, but some may require a small fee to cover the cost of food or drink.
Information on upcoming hashes is distributed through word-of-mouth, phone lines, or the Internet. Once every 2 years thousands of hashers from around the world gather at the ‘Interhash’, the last Interhash was held in Hainan, China in March 2014. In the UK there is an annual event called ‘Nash Hash’.